“Houston, We had a Problem Here”
Two and a half days into the third mission to land astronauts onto the surface of the moon, the crew of Apollo 13 experienced what could arguably be the defining moment in the heroic events of space exploration. The event became classified as a “successful failure,” that strengthened the image of a technologically advanced United States, which could handle great events and overcome great adversity.
Astronauts are considered the epitome of a life devoted to learning, exploration, and adventure. An astronaut embodies our noble aspirations to be better than we are and to search for meaning in great deeds and selfless acts. And the astronaut was the face of the space effort, but the individuals supporting the space program run wide and deep. Even the casual viewer, taking part in the viewing of the event feels a part by seeing themselves, even peripherally, as supporting something so much bigger then themselves.
Spaceflight is a momentous event sandwiched between a controlled explosion and a fiery re-entry. The image is doing the impossible through the accomplishment of a seemingly infinite series of smaller tasks. This is not a lost art or a technique unique to aerospace. In fact it is not a practice founded solely in science.
Through the act of thinking beyond one-self, through thinking that one’s own efforts can allow someone else to reach beyond their own reach, through becoming the instrument that enables others around you, … that is the full connotation of success.
Only few become astronauts, but I argue that it is equally the breadth of effort to make this a better place for others that truly defines what is good. The path to success does not always allow us to reach the moon. We wish to achieve material wealth, to acquire items, to live well, but truly some very simple acts are all that is truly required. Our days are filled with an infinite series of small tasks that get us through our day. And it is through these acts, by becoming self-less, by thinking beyond oneself, by allowing those around us to reach a little farther … that is truly humanity at its best.
The world needs astronauts.
But more so, the world needs those who think beyond themselves and who, for some time during their day, seek their own means of being there for those around.